Dating can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. Forget endless flirting and trying tricks to win people over. Here are some practical pieces of advice that will make dating easier.

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Dating doesn’t always feel like an easy thing to do these days, and it’s not hard to see why. There’s an abundance of information and tools out there, from horoscope compatibility to random dating rules and various apps, and it can be hard to keep everything straight.

Fortunately, there are legit dating coaches like Shira Teichman to help us sort through all of the bad tips and advice out there.

Focus on red flags.

People who are just starting to date someone new often feel that something isn’t quite right in their gut, yet they choose to hold out in the hopes that it’s just them being nervous about a new relationship.

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Although you can feel a little apprehensive at first, it’s a bad sign if you ever feel that your date is angry, controlling, jealous, or just generally strange.

How to Handle It

“My rule of thumb is if you don’t feel seen and heard in your relationship, it’s a problem,” says Teichman.

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“If it doesn’t feel like there’s a balance of power in the relationship—like, one person is making all of the decisions and your needs and preferences are not part of the picture—that is also a recipe for disaster.”

Making an effort isn’t crazy.

Dating these days seems to have an insane set of rules that don’t really tend to move relationships forward. Sometimes people stare at their phones for days waiting for a call or text, all while telling themselves their date will think they’re too desperate if they send a quick message.

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We convince ourselves that the other person should take the lead and determine the pace of the relationship while we do nothing, hoping that not making an effort will somehow work in our favor. When it comes to dating, though, you’re ultimately not going to get anywhere if you choose to stand idly by.

How to Handle It

“To date successfully, you can’t just go through the motions of dating without being present in mind, body and spirit,” Teichman says.

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“It’s dating in the moment, with a keen awareness of what’s going on emotionally between you and your date, that leads to the clarity we all want.”

Get your priorities straight.

Everyone has an idea of what qualities they’re looking for in an ideal partner: kind, smart, funny, employed, not a felon. It’s alright to have a few basic traits that you won’t compromise on, for example, not dating someone who’s rude or someone who’s way too introverted for you. But there are some things you shouldn’t put too much stock in.

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Perhaps the person you’re dating has a high-profile job now or you consider them to be perfect in the looks department, and you find those things greatly attractive. Think now about how you’d feel if they suddenly got let go from their job, or it’s 10 years later and they don’t look as hot as they once did.

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Although attraction is a big part of any relationship, try to focus your attraction on the actual person you’re dating and not the things about them that are bound to change at some point.

How to Handle It

“When it comes to compatibility, most people think personality is the most important thing to look out for, but that actually isn’t true,” Teichman says. “It’s shared goals and values that make the relationship last.”

Don’t make excuses.

When you’re dating someone, it’s inevitable that they will eventually do something you’re not too fond of, and you’ll feel the need to approach them about it. Their response says a lot not only about how they handle conflict but about how they view your relationship.

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If they actually make the effort to change their behavior, congrats. That means they truly value your opinion and their relationship with you. If they take even the most constructive criticism as an attack, you’re better off running.

How to Handle It

“Before committing to someone, be sure to make your needs known and then observe how your partner responds to your feedback,” Teichman says.

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“Healthy individuals, if made aware of how their behavior is hurting or upsetting you (as long as it’s done in a non-critical way), will respond positively, and you will notice their efforts to change their behavior. If they want the relationship to last, healthy partners will want to make you happy—and vice-versa.”

You don’t need to check in constantly.

Whether you’ve just started dating someone or you’ve been in a relationship for years, it’s natural to think about how your partner feels about what the two of you have going on. It’s easy to see why.

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So much dating advice these days tells us to focus on the message we’re sending to other people, and we often spend so much time overanalyzing that message that we’re not actually being ourselves. 

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Instead of just seeing how things go, many people tend to focus on how their marketing efforts are doing.

How to Handle It

“The more present you are on the date, the more you’ll be able to naturally tune into the subtle and not-so-subtle clues that indicate whether or not the person you’re dating will make a healthy or unhealthy partner,” Teichman says.

Chemistry isn’t everything.

Some people are just naturally charming, and they end up drawing a lot of people to them because of it. It can be easy to feel attracted to someone when you not only find them handsome or beautiful but they also have a charismatic or suave demeanor.

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Just because someone is charming doesn’t mean they’re right for you, however—or that they’re even a good person underneath it all. It’s important to look past the shiny exterior and pay attention to who the person actually seems to be beyond their nice clothes and ability to sweet-talk you.

How to Handle It

Look past the charm.

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“Many personality disorders—like narcissism, for example—can be difficult to detect because they’re frequently packaged in the sparkly, attractive exterior of charm and charisma,” Teichman cautions.

Spend some time apart.

When you first begin to date someone, it’s natural to want to see them as much as possible. This is true even for couples who’ve been together for longer amounts of time. No matter how much you like or love someone, though, everybody feels the need to have some alone time every once in a while.

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It can be concerning to some people when they don’t seem to miss their partner as much as they think they should while they’re gone. But often people who have this bit of time apart don’t really let themselves fully experience what it feels like to be on their own.

How to Handle It

“Before you can say whether or not you miss the person you’re dating, you’ve got to be real about whether or not you’re giving yourself a chance to miss him or her,” Teichman shares.

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“If you’re together 24/7 or something close to that, then there’s no way you have the ability to answer that question fairly.”

Ask yourself how you truly feel.

This seems like it should come naturally to everyone, but it’s something that people don’t always think about, especially once they’ve gotten deeper into a relationship. Not only is it important to ask yourself how being around the person you’re dating makes you feel, but it’s also important to consider how you felt about yourself before you met them and started a relationship.

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No matter how many compliments someone you’re dating can give you or how good they can make you feel, it’s only temporary if you don’t already feel those things about yourself without their input.

How to Handle It

Ask yourself from time to time how you feel about yourself within the relationship to see if the person you’re dating has any impact on those feelings.

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As Teichman says, “Your partner must respect you and treat you with kindness. But ultimately, nobody can give you your self-worth but you.”